Suffolk University will conduct mandatory "microaggression" training for each academic department after an incident that recently gained attention in which a sociology student wrote a blog post saying she was wrongfully accused of plagiarism because of her race.
In her post titled “Academia, Love Me Back,” Tiffany Martinez wrote that her professor marked her paper with the comment that “this is not your language” and asked her to indicate where she used “cut and paste.” Specifically, the professor, who has not been named by Martinez or the university, circled the word “hence” in her paper,” writing “this is not your word.”
“My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that,” Martinez wrote. “As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking, ‘could someone like her write something like this?’”
Suffolk University Acting President Marisa J. Kelly said in a post on the school’s website that the incident is being taken seriously and Suffolk is committed to making sure all students feel welcomed and respected.
“The truth is that all of us here at Suffolk should be concerned about any student feeling this way,” Kelly wrote. “So we must redouble efforts to create a more inclusive environment, while at the same time recognizing that everyone involved in any specific incident deserves a fair hearing.”
Kelly said that the school has been focusing this year on diversity and inclusion, with new staff hirings and a survey distributed to the Suffolk community asking about areas that need improvement. The surveywill be analyzed by the school’s Diversity Task Force.
Suffolk also opened workshops for faculty on topics like teaching inclusively and experiences of race in academia. Still, Kelly said, this isn’t enough in light of the recent issue, and so the school will hold the microaggression training.
The term “microaggressions” was coined by a Harvard professor and psychiatrist and has come to refer to casual or sometimes unconsciously made degrading, racist or sexist remarks.
“While these sessions will not make us perfect, it is my hope that through training and open dialog we will further foster a climate that is safe, supportive, and welcoming to all,” Kelly wrote.
Martinez has not responded to a request for comment or made any Facebook posts about Kelly’s remarks. She did share a BBC World video in which she spoke with other Latina students who shared their own stories of being accused of plagiarism and voiced support for Martinez.
“The amount of support that I’ve been getting… I feel like I’m getting emotional because I felt fear going into my class tomorrow because I still have to see this professor,” Martinez said in the video. “But now I walk into this classroom with so many Latinas behind me and powerful strong women and powerful strong people who are on my side.”